Rutgers safety David Rowe has been a mainstay in the defensive backfield for the Scarlet Knights.
He has played in a team-leading 50 games, with 35 starts. He made the move from cornerback to safety this season and continued to thrive, with three interceptions, three fumble recoveries and 57 tackles this season. At 6 feet and 195 pounds, he could play in the NFL.
Except Rowe has decided the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Iowa State on Dec. 30 will be the final football game of his career. Rather than continue on to the pros, Rowe has decided what he really wants to do is reach out and help the homeless.
“I think it just came down to what's going to make me happy,” Rowe said in a recent phone interview. “Growing up, my dream was to play in the NFL. As I got older and I saw some of the things in the world, I wanted to have an opportunity to help a lot of people. You can do that in ways other than just football.”
The events of one day two summers ago helped Rowe make up his mind. Working with the homeless always has been a life goal of his. So Rowe decided he wanted to see just what it was like to live on the streets. He and a friend pretended to be homeless for a day while he was back home in Cocoa, Fla.
Neither one showered. Rowe wore dirty, tattered clothes -- cargo pants ripped at the bottom and an old shirt with a hole in it. They had no money on them, and no food. They walked 10 miles all day and into the night. At one point, they went to the mall. As they approached one store, a woman was on her way out. Rowe says she turned right around when she saw him approaching and avoided making eye contact.
"People would look at me differently because of the clothes I had on and how dirty I looked," Rowe said. "It really showed me what they go through even on a little scale. I can only imagine if you are really homeless how people look at you and how much help you need."
By the end of the night, Rowe called his brother to pick him up. He was hungry, tired and had a new outlook on what he should do.
Rowe would like to do homeless outreach or work at a homeless shelter to start. He is working toward a degree in communications, and has tried not think about the reality of his final game as a football player.
"It's definitely going to be hard," Rowe said. "I'll approach it like any other game. If I don't, I'll probably have a bad game if i put too much weight on it. After the game, I will be happy."